Though there could be as many as 10 nominees for Best Picture, the academy still only nominates five for Best Director, so the filmmakers that make the cut on Thursday (January 14) can tell us a lot about which films are the strongest in the top race.
The five contenders we think will be nominated for Best Director are below in order of their racetrack odds with the predicted winner, Ridley Scott ("The Martian"), noted in gold. These official odds are derived from the predictions of 25 Expert film journalists along with the Gold Derby Editors who cover awards year-round, the Top 24 Users who got the top scores predicting last year's Oscar nominations and the thousands of Users who make up the largest (and often savviest) bloc of predictors.
When it comes to picking the winners, our prediction groups are also divided. The experts favor Scott for an overdue first win, with 15 out of 25 backing the 78-year-old veteran: Thelma Adams (Gold Derby), Tim Gray (Variety), Pete Hammond (Deadline Hollywood), Matthew Jacobs (Huffington Post), Dave Karger (Fandango), Scott Mantz (Access Hollywood), Jack Mathews (Gold Derby), Michael Musto (Out.com), Tom O'Neil (Gold Derby), Kevin Polowy (Yahoo), Christopher Rosen (Entertainment Weekly), Paul Sheehan (Gold Derby), Anne Thompson (Thompson on Hollywood), Peter Travers (Rolling Stone) and Susan Wloszczyna (RogerEbert.com).
Another six experts predict McCarthy: Matt Atchity (Rotten Tomatoes), Michael Hogan (Vanity Fair), Tariq Khan (Fox News), Nicole Sperling (Entertainment Weekly), Brian Truitt (USA Today) and Jeffrey Wells (Hollywood Elsewhere).
Edward Douglas (Weekend Warrior) and Glenn Whipp (LA Times) say critics darling Miller will prevail. Keith Simanton (IMDB) thinks Sunday night's Golden Globe-champ Inarritu will be the first filmmaker to win back-to-back directing Oscars since Joseph L. Mankiewicz in 1949 and 1950, while Sasha Stone (Awards Daily) senses a surge for McKay.
Five out of six editors also predict Scott: Marcus Dixon, Rob Licuria, Tom O'Neil, Paul Sheehan and myself. Chris Beachum is the lone outlier predicting McCarthy.
Our Top 24 Users are sharply divided, but they actually give McCarthy best odds based on support from eight of those elite predictors, including Denton Davidson, who tied for the highest accuracy predicting last year's Oscar nominations (79%).
But another five top users are backing Scott, including Cinemateo21, who also topped last year's predictions with 79% accuracy. Inarritu and Miller have support from four top users each. And three forecast a victory for McKay.
If you're looking for clarity in this wide-open contest, don't consult Gold Derby's thousands of total users either. McCarthy is ahead with that group, but he, Scott, Inarritu and Miller all have support from hundreds of users as well, so it may take more time before a clear frontrunner emerges in this contest.
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